Entertainment

Emmys 2016: 5 things to watch

Jimmy Kimmel is set to host as nominees, including a number of Canadians, prepare for TV's biggest night.

Game of Thrones could make Emmy history while a number of Canadians are up for major acting categories

Host Jimmy Kimmel poses for a photo with an Emmy statue at the Primetime Emmy Awards Press Preview Day Wednesday in L.A. (Rich Fury/The Associated Press)

Jimmy Kimmel is set to host this year's Primetime Emmy Awards and British actor Tom Hiddleston (otherwise known as Taylor Swift's ex) is set to present the final award of the evening. So besides watching for that inevitable and possibly painful joke about "Hiddleswift," here's a rundown of what else to keep an eye on during TV's biggest night.

Leader of the pack

Game of Thrones, which won last year's top award for Outstanding Drama, received the most nominations going in this year, at 23. The hit HBO fantasy series has already won nine of those awards which were handed out last week, so it has major momentum going into Sunday's live broadcast.

The epic drama is just a few wins away from setting a new record. If it takes at least three more Emmys, Game of Thrones will become the most-awarded scripted show in Emmy history. The current holder of that prestigious title is the sitcom Frasier, which captured a total of 37 Emmys during its 11 seasons on air between 1993 and 2004.

Thrones will miss next year's Emmy deadline because of the decision to air its seventh season in the summer of 2017, so racking up as many as possible this year is an even bigger deal.

Sansa Stark and Jon Snow, played by actors Sophie Turner and Kit Harington, wage the battle for their home during season 6 of HBO's Game of Thrones. The show could make Emmy history if it wins at least three more trophies Sunday. (HBO Canada/Bell Media)

The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which got 22 nominations total and has already won a number of technical Emmys given out earlier, is likely to be another big winner.

The 10-episode historical drama managed to re-tell the story of O.J. Simpson's 1995 murder trial, and the events before and after, in a fascinating way and with a fresh perspective.

Its stellar cast was rewarded with a number of acting nominations including Sarah Paulson (who played prosecutor Marcia Clark), Sterling K. Brown (who played prosecutor Chris Darden), Courtney B. Vance (as defence lawyer Johnnie Cochran), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (as O. J. Simpson), David Schwimmer (as Robert Kardashian) and John Travolta (playing Robert Shapiro).

Cuba Gooding Jr. (left) is nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of O.J. Simpson in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story. (FX/20th Century Fox Television)

Canuck contingent

There are a number of Canadians to root for this year, in major acting categories and behind-the-scenes.

Tatiana Maslany is once again nominated for outstanding lead actress in a drama, playing multiple roles on the cult hit clone series Orphan Black.

A big part of Maslany's charm off-camera, besides her Regina roots of course, is her honesty when it comes to red carpets versus real life.

Tatiana Maslany, left and right, plays more than 10 cloned characters in Orphan Black. (Space/Canadian Press)

"It is really an honour to be part of a group of actors who I really look up to," Maslany told CBC's Chief Correspondent Peter Mansbridge in a sit-down interview. "But it feels very separate from my life and what I do. It's this weird other world that is very flashy and very like — yeah just not my — I don't think anybody's normal experience of anything is the Emmys."

Thomas Middleditch, who hails from Nelson, B.C., and plays the bumbling but brilliant head of a startup company on the hilarious HBO series Silicon Valley, is up for outstanding lead actor in a comedy. It's the 34-year-old actor's first Emmy nomination.

From left, Kumail Nanjiani, seated, T.J. Miller, Thomas Middleditch, seated, Zach Woods and Martin Starr appear in a scene from the Emmy-nominated comedy, Silicon Valley. (John P. Johnson/HBO/The Associated Press)

Lorne Michaels is up for his long-time executive producer role on Saturday Night Live and yes, even though he's synonymous with American sketch comedy, we still get to claim him because he comes from Toronto.

Th FX series Fargo, which is shot in Calgary, received 18 nominations, some of which included Canadians who work on the show.

Laugh out loud

While Silicon Valley also has a nomination for best comedy series, it's competing against Veep, which will try to defend its crown from last year. The clever series, a political satire starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a U.S. vice president-turned-head honcho, scored 17 nominations and is particularly top of mind given the current state of American politics and an election year.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, sitting, and Tony Hale appear in a scene from the comedy series Veep. (Lacey Terrell/HBO/The Associated Press)

Black-ish, Modern Family, Transparent, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Master of None round out the competitive category, illustrating this really is the modern golden age of television.

Master of None could give Veep a run for its money. The Netflix series starring Aziz Ansari, about actors trying to find work in New York City, was a surprise hit when it was released and is currently filming season two with Ansari at the helm. The show, which is charming, funny, and has an entertaining take on thirty-something dating and relationships, took home a Critics Choice Award last year.

Diversity

Ansari isn't just a hilarious lead and serious contender, he's also among the nominees representing the award show's expanding diversity.

This year, there's at least one minority nominee in each major acting category — a lot more than the Oscars could say last year.

Aziz Ansari, who's nominated for an acting Emmy, appears in a scene from the Netflix original series Master of None. (K.C. Bailey/Netflix/Associated Press)

"This year is a far better showing than last year," said Jason E. Squire, an associate professor at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. "You can certainly say this issue is heading in the right direction."

"It seems to ebb and flow," he added. "You hope that it really catches."

And shows like Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender parent, are opening doors and ushering in new perspectives.

"The more people see this kind of work, the more the world will change I think," Gaby Hoffman, who also stars on the Amazon-streamed show, told CBC News. "And the more great work will be created."

Queen Bey is sitting where?

She might always own the front row at the Grammy Awards but Beyoncé's rock star royalty status will have to take a back seat.

According to seat placards laid out during the show's press preview earlier this week, Queen Bey has a spot in the second row. Behind Liev Schreiber who, as a result, will be in more than his fair share of camera shots thanks to that placement. Could ya move a little to the left there, Liev?

Yes, that's right. Beyoncé is seated in the second row, behind Liev Schreiber, according to these seating placards at the media preview for the 2016 Emmys. (Rich Fury/The Associated Press)

The show is boasting a number of high-profile nominees, including Idris Elba, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tina Fey, so obviously not everyone can sit up front. But the singing superstar's visual album Lemonade is up for two Emmys on Sunday and she's undoubtedly one of the biggest names attending the show. At least she's got an aisle seat.

The 68th annual Emmy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air live Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

For a full list of nominations and winners, click here.

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